More than 100 different mutations in the RPE65 gene are associated with inherited retinal degeneration. Although some missense mutations have been shown to abolish isomerase activity of RPE65, the molecular bases leading to loss of function and retinal degeneration remain incompletely understood. Here we show that several missense mutations resulted in significant decrease in expression level of RPE65 in the human retinal pigment epithelium cells. The 26S proteasome non-ATPase regulatory subunit 13, a newly identified negative regulator of RPE65, mediated degradation of mutant RPE65s, which were misfolded and formed aggregates in the cells. Many mutations, including L22P, T101I, and L408P, were mapped on nonactive sites of RPE65. Enzyme activities of these mutant RPE65s were significantly rescued at low temperature, whereas mutant RPE65s with a distinct active site mutation could not be rescued under the same conditions. 4-phenylbutyrate (PBA) displayed a significant synergistic effect on the low temperature-mediated rescue of the mutant RPE65s. Our results suggest that a low temperature eye mask and PBA, a FDA-approved oral medicine, may provide a promising “protein repair therapy” that can enhance the efficacy of gene therapy for delaying retinal degeneration caused by RPE65 mutations.
RPE65 Retinoid Visual cycle Leber congenital amaurosis Retinitis pigmentosa PSMD13 Proteasome Low temperature Chemical chaperone Gene therapy Retina
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This work was supported by NIH grants (EY021208 to M. J., EY017280 to S. G. J., and GM103340 to LSU Neuroscience COBRE facility), Macula Vision Research Foundation grants (to D. B. and to S.G.J.), and a Research to Prevent Blindness grant (to LSU Ophthalmology).
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